Create a small business focus group for insights, loyalty, and profits


Would you take our online survey?

How many times have you seen that question lately? It seems to pop up for me a few times a day and I virtually always click “NO” or simply navigate to another website. It’s unfortunate for the business because it’s not getting valuable information from me. But consider this alternate question:

Would you join our online focus group?

You use this question differently. It’s targeted mostly to your existing customers and you explain that joining the focus group will result in additional loyalty rewards.

I know a major newspaper that asks subscribers to participate in its online focus group. Reward points are added for every focus group survey completed and these points eventually add up to an Amazon gift card. This focus group strategy has excellent benefits above and beyond what can be accomplished via a quick one-off customer survey:

  • It keeps your business top of mind. Honestly, many of us get numb to receiving sales emails. We receive too many of them day in and day out. However, an email with the subject line, “Please join this week’s focus group survey!” will differentiate your business email from all the other email your customers or prospects receive. Participation is also boosted by the knowledge that there will be some kind of loyalty reward associated with participation.
  • Focus groups give you actionable information. You can use these surveys to find out what you’re doing right, and better yet, what customer needs you aren’t yet fulfilling. The information you can gather is limited only by your imagination.
  • Focus groups can influence your customers’ behavior. I mentioned the newspaper focus group survey above. There are certain questions or topics that it comes back to often. About every second survey asks focus group members if they saw the Sunday paper. If they did – and looked at it in some depth – they are given more questions to answer and they receive more reward points. It’s a true Pavlovian strategy: They are teaching subscribers than when they read the Sunday paper, they get rewarded. Is there an area of your website you would like to promote to your customers? If so, ask about it in your focus group surveys.

We know that major corporations (and politicians!) have been using focus groups for years. Today, with all the online tools we have, even small business owners can pull together a focus group for little or no money that has the potential to increase sales and profits.

One of the cheapest ways to do this is by using Google forms to create online surveys. Andy Wolber wrote an excellent “how-to” article on this over on the TechRepublic site. Give it a try!